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Lehi • A handful of protesters tried to disrupt a speech from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Utah County on Saturday by shouting the Republican down as he talked about the continued need to repeal Obamacare.
"Shame on you for voting to strip health care from 16 million Americans," shouted the unidentified man, who popped to his feet in the middle of about 400 people gathered at a rally for 3rd Congressional District candidate and former state Rep. Chris Herrod.
The outburst triggered an angry eruption from the crowd, which got to its feet and responded with loud booing, finger pointing and a chant of its own: "U-S-A, U-S-A!" as the man and two others were escorted from the room at Entrata, a Lehi company that makes property management software.
Cruz took the kerfuffle in stride, joking that in Utah, "even the protesters are polite," before going on to extoll the conservative credentials of Herrod.
"We need reinforcements in Washington," Cruz said, noting that Utah's election matters nationally as well. "If we want to repeal Obamacare, you want to elect Chris Herrod."
Cruz urged each of Herrod's supporters to pick up the phone and call nine friends or family members and encourage them to also check the box next to the former state representative's name on their mail-in ballots.
"Elections matter," Cruz said, before offering up proof that drew rousing cheers. "It's July 2017, and Hillary Clinton is not president."
Cruz is popular with Utah voters and won the state's 2016 Republican primary election for the presidential nomination with 69 percent of the vote. Herrod was the director of Cruz's Utah campaign.
Cruz also told Herrod's supporters that the GOP has been "burned too many times" by supposed conservatives who come to Washington and don't stick to or vote for conservative principles.
"It's like 'Revenge of the Body Snatchers,' " Cruz said. "They become these Washington zombies, utterly disconnected from the promises they made back home."
Cruz told the crowd he thinks Congress could be the most productive in decades and that Republicans can bring conservatives and moderates to deliver on promises that will advance the country.
Among Cruz's top priorities: putting conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, lifting regulations on businesses to promote job growth and dismantling the IRS and establishing a flat tax, all of which got rousing applause.
But it was his drumbeat for an Affordable Care Act repeal that was Cruz's most consistent message Saturday, both during the rally and during a pre-event news conference.
The Senate's failure to pass a scaled-back plan to overhaul the law this week after promising to do so for seven years was disappointing, Cruz said.
"We failed to deliver on this," Cruz said. "I think the credibility of the party is deeply, deeply damaged."
Cruz said he still believes repeal is possible and that while the Senate fell short, consensus is being built and some progress has been made.
Cruz brushed off questions from reporters about the chaos inside the White House and how it may have helped or hurt the effort to pass a repeal.
"My standard policy is that I don't comment on the random comments of the day or the political circus that is Washington," he said. "It will continue to be what it is. I think the people who elected us don't really care."
Cruz announced his support for Herrod's candidacy in June, after delegates at the Utah GOP's state convention tapped Herrod as the party's candidate.
But data released this week from a Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll show Herrod running last in the field of three vying for Chaffetz's job.
The poll found Provo Mayor John Curtis leading the pack by a more than 2-to-1 margin, with 37 percent of respondents saying he would get their vote.
Political newcomer Tanner Ainge, a Utah county financial adviser and the son of Danny Ainge, general manager of the NBA's Boston Celtics, was in second, with 17 percent of support from respondents. Herrod, a real estate agent and former teacher, was third, with 14 percent.
A primary election is set for Aug. 15. The winner will compete with Democratic nominee Kathie Allen, a physician, whose campaign has raised about $700,000 in donations.